Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Paula Disbrowe's Smoky Red Hens

I've roasted a hundred chickens in my life yet never attempted Cornish Hens until a week ago. I think it was the name. So proper. So gamey. And more important would a hen really taste like a mini chicken? I wasn't convinced.

But then I was flipping through Paula's Book - Cowgirl Cuisine - and the photo convinced me to try them. I love that about food pictures. I guess that puts me in the "Picture Cookbook" camp versus the "Cooks Illustrated" set. That's okay. Something tells me they don't drink enough wine for me anyway.

I now credit Paula for getting me over my fear of hens. What was I so afraid of? They're so freaking cute and tiny! I kind of wanted to dress them up like little dolls instead of cooking them. But then I got hungry.

Smoky Red Hens
* Slightly adapted from Paula Disbrowe.
* Refrigerate hens overnight in spice rub for better flavor.
Serves 4.

2 Cornish Hens
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder (I only had regular chili powder)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 small orange (use rest of orange for cavity)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 fresh bay leaves, or 1 teaspoon pink pepper corns
5 -6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 small onion quartered
1 small orange, quartered
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Remove neck or giblets from hens and rinse hens under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside. Meanwhile combine the spices - cumin through the sugar - in a small bowl. Stir in the oil, zest and red wine vinegar. Add the hens to an oversized ziploc and rub all over with the spice rub, being sure to rub inside the cavity as well. Add in the bay leaves (or pink peppercorns), thyme sprigs, smashed garlic cloves, seal, and roll the chickens around a little more in the bag so that everyone gets along. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove hens from fridge and let sit out for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425. Remove the hens from the bag and carefully stuff each of the cavities with a quarter of the onion, orange, and a garlic clove. Tie the legs if desired.

Roast the hens on a rack in a roasting pan for 30 minutes. Add some water or chicken stock to the bottom of the pan if/when the juices begin to scorch. After 30 minutes, reduce heat to 375 and roast another 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when the hen's inner thigh is pierced with a knife.

Remove from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving (remove and discard cavity filling first.)


Velva said...

I enjoy cornish hens-especially, when someone else prepares them. This is a great recipe. You have provided a gentle reminder that I need to enjoy cornish hens more often.


Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

I've never cooked game hens either! This looks good, I love the spice blend and the rich color it gives the hens. How were they? The hubby has been asking for game hens for while now (ok 18 years, who's counting??) so I guess I should pony up soon. Me thinks I'll try this recipe :)

And WORD about Cooks Illustrated and the lack of wine. It'd improve their disposition greatly I feel :) I know it improves mine! LMAO :)

StephenC said...

I've cooked many a hen in my time. The one thing that would add to this is to brine the birds for 3 hours, then dry them and apply the rub. It truly will make a difference.

Jenn said...

I love Cornish hens... Chris thinks they are too gamey, so I rarely make them. I might have to forget about his feelings for once and make this anyway :)
Is that okra I see on the side??? YUm!

Desi said...

I love those lil baby Cornish hens, they are so cute and tasty! I do think they taste just like chicken, I have never thought they taste gamey. This recipe sounds good :) I also wanted to let you know about my cookbook giveaway that is going on right now until July 16th. Stop on by to enter! Hope you are having a great week :)